A charity in France has accused Disneyland Paris of "institutionalized discrimination" against developmentally disabled people and has announced its intention to file a lawsuit against the theme park near Paris.
The National Union of Charities for Parents with Disabled Children (UNAPEI) is taking Disneyland to court for what it describes as “intolerable acts against people with learning disabilities".
“For the top French and European tourist destination, it is intolerable to see such institutionalized discriminatory practices,” Christel Prado, president of Unapei, told Le Parisien newspaper. Prado added that the organization has not encountered the same problems in other theme parks.
According to a number of families and charities Disneyland Paris carries out the equivalent of “racial profiling” against people with learning disabilities.
“People with visible disabilities are denied access to certain attractions and are pulled out of the queues in front of other children,” Prado said. “It’s humiliating. Mickey Mouse treats us like we are crazy”.
Those with learning disabilities have no choice but to identify themselves as “disabled visitors” in order to get a “priority pass” if they want to make the most of the attractions, the organization said
The problem with the priority pass, Unapei says, is that forces those with learning disabilities to follow a different set of rules to everyone else in order to access the roller coasters.
The organization also complained about the draconian rules which bars the person accompanying a group of four people with learning disabilities from taking the ride as a group. Instead the guardian has to take the ride with each individual, meaning they would have to queue four times.
“What upsets me most is the separating. At a time when we talk about living together better, we cannot tolerate such segregation,” Prado told Le Parisien.
On Thursday the theme park launched a staunch defence of its treatment of the "60,000 customers with disabilities that come through its gates each year".
“We are very attentive on this subject,” said the theme park in a statement. "We have to above all ensure their safety. If the ride is blocked in the dark, if there is panic, then the rescuers need to know straight away where they are."
When questioned about the rule that forces them to declare themselves as disabled at the entrance to the park Disneyland bosses said: “It is for their own good. Although we have noticed that more and more disabled people do not want to signal this.”